As many of us know, Dr. Valerie Hudson and her colleagues have done outstanding research demonstrating how the security of women is directly correlated with the security of a state and how this impacts international relations. A couple of her most well known pieces, “Bare Branches” and “A Surplus of Men A Deficit of Peace” illustrate how in countries like China and India, the surplus of men has had detrimental consequences on the security and stability of the nation. As an intern for a non-profit organization that works with women and children who have fallen victim to domestic violence, I have also begun to see this correlation between state security and women in my own work environment. I see this correlation play out on a city/local level everyday when I am at work.
Allow me to explain.
In my experience as an intern working in social services, specifically, domestic violence, I have seen how the security of women is directly correlated with the security and stability of a state on a local level. I have observed evidence for this assertion through my interactions with the children of women who have experienced domestic violence. Currently, all the clients in our emergency domestic violence shelter have two or more children ranging from sixteen months to twelve years of age. I have noticed that the majority of these children have mental and/or physical disabilities from either their mother’s alcohol/drug use during pregnancy or direct exposure to violence in the home. Though all are impacted, older children tend to more outwardly present and express obvious signs of psychological trauma from domestic violence. Most of these children have been labeled as secondary victims of domestic violence but this does not make the mental and emotional side affects less worrisome.
Regarding the mothers of these children, I have observed that most, if not all of them lack any effective means of parenting. I have found common trends in the childhood stages of these women that explain their lack of parenting skills. All of these women have been raised in homes that include one or more of the following: neglect, domestic violence, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and living conditions below the poverty line. Raised under these difficult circumstances these women have not learned productive parenting skills from their parent(s) and past experiences. Most of these women also lack education. Approximately three fourths of our clients have completed at least a portion of their high school education or have earned a GED, but I have also worked with clients who have not received an education beyond elementary school. Their lack of schooling makes it difficult for these women to successfully improve their lives and the lives of their children. Comprehensively, these factors have resulted in ineffective strict parenting that uses physical and emotional abuse to enforce rules and punish wrongdoings. This parenting style leads to dysfunctional parent-child relationships and is the fundamental cause of reactionary attachment disorder. Additionally, the children are further negatively impacted by the cyclical choice of their mothers to return to their abusers. On average a victim of domestic violence will return to their current abuser eight times before leaving permanently or being killed.
These children are a product of their environment. Their misfortunes are the result of mothers who are mentally and emotionally unstable due to childhood hardships and abuse, poor education, and psychological trauma from their current experiences with domestic abuse. Subsequently, these children are at extremely high risk for entering into lifestyles of criminal activity and family violence once they reach adulthood. The statistical likelihood that these children will grow up and engage in criminal behavior is astronomically high. They have only a limited understanding of morals and ethics due to poor parenting, are almost always exposed to alcohol/drug abuse and petty theft at a very young age, and have witnessed violence as a daily part of their lives. The children that I have interacted with in our shelter have displayed a range of mental and emotional problems with very dangerous potential including: thoughts of suicide and self-harm, active thoughts of murder, consideration of prostitution, aggressive behavior, addictive tendencies, dysfunctional social abilities, and severe depression.
I believe if the underlying problem was resolved- violence against women, and greater security was afforded to these women, we could break the cycle of domestic violence and crime that is carried on by their children. Breaking the cycle would not only better the lives of these women, it would improve the lives of their children, significantly decreasing their exposure to the above discussed problems and therefore, decreasing their chances of engaging in criminal behavior in adulthood. Interacting with these female victims of domestic violence and their children and been extremely insightful and an invaluable experience. Additionally, my realization of the applicability of Dr. Hudson’s assertions regarding correlation between security of a state and that of women on a very local level (in my own city) has been a very eye opening experience for me both academically and personally.